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B&R’s automated manufacturing systems used for reducing pumping stations capital and operating costs

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article image Pump stations

Pumping station switchboards can be expensive both to purchase and to run, but Coffs Harbour City Council have found a way to dramatically reduce costs, while at the same time solving OH&S issues. Coffs Harbour City Council solution came from a close inspection of how the board was purchased.

Typically Coffs Harbour City Council specified their requirements and the project was awarded to a civil contractor. What was then happening was that the civils contractor would go out to tender to an electrical contractor, and the electrical contractor may then go out to a board builder. All this meant that the council could be charged more than 50% over the cost of the components even if they were purchased in low volume.

There were also additional concerns with contracting out the switchboards. Some of these were technical and others related to OH&S.


These included:

  • Pump stations were made up of several individual boards for power, control and telemetry, making them difficult to install in remote locations.
  • Many boards were returned for rework, due to their non compliance AS3000 and other electrical standards.
  • There were often OH&S issues relating to lockable isolation switches and the appropriate labeling of components.
  • Boards often had no cooling and would overheat regularly, reducing the life of components.
  • Many boards were only capable of handling a single pump run and were not capable of running two pumps at once during high flow.
  • Equipment was supplied with a wide range of different parts, often to different standards. This meant in practice that a huge inventory of spare parts had to be maintained.
  • Alarming of the boards was by various third party companies so you were never too sure of who was dealing with which board.
  • Set points on the wells had to be set manually, which was a trial and error method requiring a lot of pump starts.
  • Many boards had no earth leakage detection, lightning or vermin protection.
  • Boards had no facilities for well washing.

This resulted in bad operating procedures and expensive spare parts which often were not stocked, causing long downtime periods and an increased chance of EPA fines.

The solution to the problem has been for the council to build the boards. This has been done to agreed, relevant electrical standards and in a way that resolved all OH&S issues. To do this, they standardised on parts, procedures, coding and control, making it possible for any pumping station to be operated in an identical manner without having to train the operator on every board in the field.

Coffs Harbour started its standardisation by ensuring that every pumping station looked and had equipment in the same locations. B&R Enclosures assisted with the design and development work. With B&R’s automated manufacturing systems, Coffs Harbour City Council could ensure that every enclosure would look the same and fit all the equipment to be installed.

Other suppliers were also carefully researched and the most appropriate equipment selected. This meant that all units have standardised circuits, parts lists, operating procedures, coding and controls. The suppliers include Serck controls, PDS telemetry controller, Treo radio and ABB variable speed drives.

Once installed Coffs Harbour Council found that not only was the capital cost of the pumping stations reduced dramatically, operating cost reduced too.

Reasons for this included: -

  • Operating procedures were standardised
  • Reduced visits to the pumping stations
  • Reduced overflows
  • Shorter times to repair
  • Improved knowledge by the operator
  • Improved operating practices
  • Accurate data for program maintenance
  • More information on which to base upgrades to the plant
  • Time to overflow recorded

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